SDS drills are great for all sorts of jobs when you are renovating your home. They can make quick work when used to drill holes in wood, masonry, concrete, and other hard materials, and outperform standard rotary drills, but what else can they do? Here’s a guide to how to use SDS drills and get much more drill for your money:
SDS or Slotted Drive System drills can be used to drill holes or to chisel and break down hard materials like masonry and concrete, they use a heavy-duty chuck system that allows both rotary and high power hammer action to move the drill bit back and forward, for efficient cutting. They have 3 modes and can be used with hammer and rotary, hammer only, or rotary only.
SDS drills can do a range of tasks that normal hammer drills cannot, lets take a look at how much more versatile they are:
SDS drills are basically normal drills on steroids, they are used for heavy-duty jobs that smaller, lighter percussion drills cannot complete.
The SDS Chuck
The key to the performance of SDS drills is the chuck and hammer mechanism which differs from a standard percussion drill.
SDS drills use slots and ball bearings to hold the drill bit in place which allows for direct contact with the hammer piston which in turn, means more force is applied directly to the drill bit.
The higher impact forces help to breakdown hard masonry and concrete much more efficiently than a percussion drill.
SDS drill Bits
The drill bits are designed especially for use with SDS drills, they have special slots in the shank which lock into the SDS drill chuck mechanism.
The slots allow the drill bit to move forward and back inside the chuck for hammer impact and also locks the drill bit so that it will turn with the chuck, this means the drill bit cannot slip inside the chuck.
This is different from a standard straight shank drill bit which is gripped firmly by the jaws of the drill chuck and relies on the strength of the grip of the jaws.
SDS drill bits come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and lengths allowing for a massive range of task to be carried out with an SDS drill and include:
- Flat blade chisels
- Channel Chisels
- Point chisels
- Hollow gouge
- Tile chisel
- Sutch combs
- Mortar rake
Follow this link to read our full guide on How to sharpening masonry drills to make the most of your drills.
SDS Drill modes
SDS drills typically have 3 modes which can be selected for different types of task, they are:
The chuck turns without any hammering action.
For drilling holes in wood, metals
The drill bit moves back and forward but the chuck does not turn.
For chiseling or breaking stone, concrete, masonry, and other hard materials
Rotary & Hammer
The chuck turns and the drill bit moves back and forward at the same time
For drilling holes and breaking up stone, masonry, concrete, and other hard materials
SDS Drill Uses
As with normal percussion drills SDS drills can be used to drill holes into wood, metal, and plastic, but they stand out as the king of masonry.
The rotary mode can be used to drill or cut into soft materials, like wood, plastic, or soft concrete block. When using rotary mode a standard drill chuck with and SDS adaptor can be fitted, allowing the use of standard straight shank drill bits.
Hammer mode is set by adjusting a selector on the side of the drill which disengages the clutch and stops the chuck for turning.
In hammer only mode SDS drills can be used to chisel into hard materials like concrete or stone and can be used to create channels, grooves, shaped holes, or cut pieces cleanly.
With Hammer mode selected SDS drills can also be used as breakers in order to demolish brick, blockwork, stone, or concrete.
With the right bit selected, hammer mode offers a wide range of tasks that a normal drill cannot perform, for example fitting a wide flat chisel blade will make quick work when removing tiles or plaster from the walls or floors.
Smaller chisels can be used for chasing blockwork to allow for plumbing, electrical cables, or conduit and can be done quickly with an SDS drill.
Fitting a box chaser makes cutting square or rectangular holes a doddle and means moving electrical outlets is quick and easy.
Sutch combs can make easy work when preparing a surface for recoating or bonding.
Large 5kg SDS drills can even be used to break up paving and walkways, however, they do have their limitations and on large areas, a full jackhammer will make the work much quicker.
When using an SDS drill its always best to wear safety gear, full goggles, hearing protection and glove are a must.
SDS drills can be heavy and required some force to use them make sure you lift properly and maintain a good stance with feet shoulder-width apart holding the drill in both hands.
Ensure you take regular breaks and limit the amount of time holding a vibrating drill, if you feel any numbness in hands or fingers take a break and allow the feeling to come back before you start again.
Types of SDS drill
Although SDS drills come in different budgets and sizes they tend to be bigger than average percussion drills and are usually more powerful than cordless combi-drills. They are designed to perform heavy-duty jobs and as such are built from high-grade materials that can withstand the forces applied when breaking down concrete for example.
When selecting an SDS drill, the type of task that the drill is required to do will determine the type and size you should look for.
For smaller, less frequent DIY jobs a lighter 2-3 kg unit may work well they will be less expensive than the heavier models but should allow for a lot of jobs to be done easily.
This size SDS drill looks and feels very similar to a large percussion drill and they don’t take up any more room when not in use or stored away.
I have a 2.5 kg Bosch unit that has worked really well and covered most of the jobs I needed to do over the last 15 years, which include breaking up a medium-sized patio.
Medium size SDS drills between 3 kg and 5 kg are bigger, heavier in size and power, and will tackle all but the hardest jobs.
Large SDS drills over 5 kg will break concrete all day long but would be less useful when you need to drill smaller holes or soft materials as they are heavy and cumbersome and designed to power through tough materials
Most SDS drill manufacturers will have different models to suit the task required, including cordless SDS drills for use on-site or where power supply is limited.
Battery-powered units can be handy and work well for smaller jobs however when working on large projects the consistent and constant power supplied by a corded unit can be a benefit.
SDS + vs MAX
SDS Max Drills are bigger and use larger drill bits than SDS+ drills, they are used for really heavy-duty applications that SDS+ Drills cannot do.
The larger SDS MAX drills tend to be used for Professional Demolition work and on large sites where the most powerful units are required.
The chuck and shank on SDS MAX drills use the same principle as SDS+ type both fittings use a ball bearing system, however, the two types are not interchangeable, this is due to the larger diameter and the number of locking grooves on the SDS MAX version.
Can you use normal drills in an SDS Drill? Fitting an SDS drill with a standard straight jawed chuck will allow for normal drills to be used however its not a good idea to use the SDS hammer action when using this type of setup.
The vibration and impact from an SDS Drill are more than than a standard 3 jawed chuck is designed to take and the site will fail.
Can you use an SDS Drill bit in a normal percussion drill? Because standard drills use a 3 jaw chuck to clamp and grip the drill bit, which differs from the ball bearing mechanism used in an SDS drill, an SDS drill bit cannot be used with a standard drill.
This is because the SDS mechanism uses slots rather than a straight shank. A 3 jaw chuck normally fitted to standard drills cannot grip the SDS drill shank correctly, it will be off center and never tighten enough to hold the drill firmly enough to use properly.
For more information on power drills follow the link to our guide to 18V Cordless drills to find the best tools on the market.
This article was written by: Richard Quinton – The DIY Help Desk Owner, Engineer & technical specialist.
Richard is one of the key partners in The DIY Help Desk team. He is a qualified Engineer, writer, and publisher, educated to Master’s level. He is a keen advocate of DIY and home improvements.
Richard enjoys helping others to learn new skills and reach their goals and believes that passing his knowledge and experience on through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the lifestyles and wellbeing of others on a larger scale.